Saturday, February 16, 2013

Featured artist: Shaltmira

Shaltmira, self-inflicted art wounds
Shaltmira is an artist, body painter, performer, comic illustrator, art party organizer, and DJ from Vilnius, Lithuania with a gift for blending diverse themes from grotesque macabre to sex to humor and science fiction.  I was introduced to her by a mutual friend from Vilnius while looking for a body painter to work with in Berlin.  I met her in analog world at Drop Dead Festival 10, for which she did some design (as did our mutual friend).  Though I wanted to be painted myself, my busy schedule during the festival prevented such, but she was able to paint my friend Evilyn Frantic (from Sweden), with exquisite results.
Photography (Top left, bottom right) by Ema Discordant.
Photography (Top right, bottom left) by Vaidotas Ambrozaitis
I also met her boyfriend and collaborator, Vaidotas, founder of Shatrija, a self-described 'lifestyle magazine for post-culture youth'.  Together, they run the ☢ CUM✧GREEN party series, which aims to find the connection between DJ's, music, and body painting (under black lights).  Her work was recently featured at EXQUISITE CORPSE/CADAVRE EXQUIS, a group exhibition at the X-Lab Gallery in Berlin.  She will be joining them again for their April exhibition in Paris.  Shaltmira was kind enough to let me pick her brain (yum yum) for insight to her experience as an artist.


When you illustrate, do you approach an empty canvas with a basic idea of what the finished product will be or is the process more of a stream of consciousness? 

It depends what purpose I have, is it a quick sketch, comics, or is it a commissioned artwork etc., but all creativity, in general, flows from some deeper layers of consciousness.  Of course, there is the certain proportion of using your imagination and skills, as well as your previous experiences.  I feel like constructing picture detail after detail both visually and in narrative.  Years of drawing gave me the ability to feel relaxed and very concentrated at the same moment, keeping in mind the composition and what the final piece should look like, but also I feel free to change it in the process, experiment and search for unexpected twists.  It is all connected.

Your works have a lot of small details in them.  Does this occur as you illustrate or do you go back after creating a general image and add them? 

In recent years I was going the direction of simplified drawing, it was kind of depuration, searching of more clear forms, elements and figures.  I had this obsession before, with immersion into small details, but now I try to keep the balance between basic forms and decorative elements.  This is an organic process, I draw and then I stop, analyze what is missing.  Better less than more, now it's my rule.

Which do you prefer: live painting or working at home/in a studio?  How do the different settings effect your work? 

I love participating and organizing events, where the live action takes place, like body-art performances, live paintings, or comics workshop, but I consider drawing at home, while being alone, more rewarding for me as an artist.  Why is it so?  When being at home alone, I have all the time I need, to think about what I want to do, nobody disturbs me.  Usually I do a little research of the theme that interests me, before starting to draw.  I kind of developed my own method of preparation and I enjoy every step of it.  Since my home is my studio – I create the comfortable, relaxing and beautiful atmosphere around (following my aesthetics, maybe somebody would find it disturbing, I don't know :D Lots of people don't like taxidermied birds, well, I'm not one of them).

The morbid elements of your work are definitely a trademark.  Some are more aggressive, some are more comedic.  Does your mood play into what or how you create?  What influences the dark themes and imagery in your illustrations and does this reflect your general outlook on life? 

I believe it does, since I'm very emotional person, even though I'd like to think about myself as very determined and rational.  As I've already told in one interview, now I have this belief that drawings are like conversations, either with yourself, imaginary friend/enemy/loved one etc. Sometimes you are in a mood of silly jokes, and another day you want to express your deep disappointment – to share your insights, and then again – to reflect the very subtle feelings, that is hard express in words.  It's hard for me to name all the influences that made an impact on my style, but one is clear – when you go to a dark room, at first you feel like blind, but after some time your eyes get used to the darkness.  So the same is with the themes I explore.  What once was shocking, now became equal as the other.  I see melancholic beauty in decadence, and by involving half dead creatures, those Frankensteins of non-existence world in the drawings, I feel like creating the illusionary timeless space, the place of opportunities for all those individuals, no matter in what shape they appear, to act

With body art, how does the human form and a canvas of skin challenge your creativity?

I've been interested in tattoos for a long time, and at first this was like a step closer to that.  Drawing on skin is a very intimate process, having also its ritualistic meanings and history.  But I'm not very involved in all that spirituality (to be honest, I feel the potential interest of explorations in this field in the future).  The image itself becomes more like a sign, I'm really interested in encoding different messages, or feelings into them.  Also, when drawing on yourself it is more like meditation, but when working on others - the communication is also very important.  A person shows you trust, and you really want to fulfill his/her expectations in order to get both sides satisfied.

Is comic art something that you are interested in getting more involved with and does it compare to doing individual illustrations?

Comics are one of the forms I use to express myself.  For me it's important to change the medias I work with from time to time because I want to avoid repeating myself and try to see everything from a different angle.  Comics are fun!  And it gives the great freedom to make fun of yourself and others without getting punched in the face

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